Seaga harks back to his 'haves' and 'have-nots' speech in final address to House
IN his final address to Jamaica's Parliament, Opposition Leader Edward Seaga yesterday returned to a familiar theme as he challenged MPs to address the persistent problem of the two Jamaicas.
It was in his maiden presentation to Jamaica's Legislative Council, precursor to the Parliament, that he made his famous speech about the "haves and the have-nots" 45 years ago that propelled him to national attention.
Yesterday, Seaga said a lot still needed to be done to rid the society of poverty, which he said denied upward mobility to many and held back social and economic development generally.
"You have a section of the population that enjoys the benefits of a modern society, and these we can call the 'haves', and a much larger section that is comprised of a Afro-centric folk society, rural people, inner city people, and these we may call the 'have-nots'," said Seaga.
Noting that the basis for development must lie in the provision of effective systems of justice and education, to even out opportunity and development, Seaga's prescription was for far greater spending on basic school education to build a foundation on which better advantage could be taken of further educational opportunities by Jamaica's poor.
He said the 70 per cent primary to 30 per cent prep school ratio of places to high schools that was devised under the introduction of the former Common Entrance Exam should have resulted in reducing the imbalances in opportunity but that had largely failed to materialise.
"The result should have been a much better ratio. No such thing has happened. It is the same 70 per cent at the end that has failed to gain even a single pass," said Seaga.
He said the concentration of educational spending by governments on primary and secondary schooling had led to less money being allocated for early childhood education, which he said was being "cotched up with match sticks".
Said Seaga: "I plead with the education task force for a new look to be taken at early childhood education... if that happens we can begin to reverse this 70/30 success-to-failure ratio and double the number of children who can produce the professionals, who can make use of the opportunities to be upwardly mobile. We must begin to see education as an investment to produce all these benefits that can impact the economy and result in upward social mobility and actual economic development."
At the same time, Seaga said "very little gains have been made" in the performance of the economy. "In the economy we have followed a different path. Some recovery and some strengthening, but the end result is that we are only a little better off."
He said the country needed to move to a position where "not only the more privileged have the resources to take advantage of the resulting benefits of prosperity", even as he recognised that some members of the have-nots "have done well legally and some illegally well".
Meanwhile, he said agriculture was the worst sector, but one with great promise if the right methods were introduced, such as providing more access to irrigation and introducing hydrophonics.
"Hydrophonics creates yields 30 to 70 per cent greater than under traditional means," Seaga said, while noting that the method could result in Jamaica's farmers being able to produce crops of high yield more cheaply or competitively priced with imported foods.
He said such moves would place local agriculture in a mode to dominate the tourism trade and local and export markets. The agriculture minister, Roger Clarke, he said, should "run with this one".
Seaga also told parliamentarians that it was the exploits of young people from the poorer strata of the society that brought the country Olympic glory as well as put Jamaica on the international stage musically and that further investment in them was needed to wipe away the negative images of Jamaica abroad.